Wednesday, September 28, 2011

They Are Neuroplasticians!



For a long time I have been torn by the job of the Early Interventionist, the Infant Development Specialist (IDS). That person is both an educator and a therapist, which gives way to clinician, but they are not seen that way. Often they are "just the teacher." Yes, quite often it is the pre-school special education teacher.

These people are a little different, though. First, they have to take what the doctor said and put it in simple terms for the family. So they have to know a lot. There is a lot of parent education. Not only do they work with the child, but they work with the family. They have to know the physiology and biology and the major workings of the brain. They then have to take that knowledge and be able to relay it to someone who may have only had high school biology...or worse, that person who needs to know doesn't speak English and the interpreter must also understand in order to interpret.

Another big issue is these people will do therapy. Say one of them has 10 children and only 1 receives OT. The others need it. So the IDS arranges for his/her visit to be at the same time as the therapist. After observing (the IDS watches and learns from the therapist), the IDS can then use those same techniques on the other 9 children. Not only does this person learn what is needed for the child being observed, but learns techniques that can be applied across the board. The same goes for speech and PT.

So you can see at least half this person's job is clinical. They do more than "just teaching".

Recently I saw something on neuroplasticity, and it occurred to me. They are neuroplasticians! They don't even know it. They work with babies to minimize disability. They are actually helping to re-wire the brain around the disability.

Of course a child with a moderate disability will end up with a mild disability. That has been documented, but it wasn't known why. Well, here's why-the current neural pathway met up with the disability. The IDS made a new pathway around it (or as far away from it as possible). The child uses the new pathway and either doesn't appear to have the disability or the disability is greatly reduced.

The IDS doesn't start seeing a child with the intent of re-wiring the brain. Understanding and coping may be the beginning, and it can be a long process (years even). But, what is the 1st few years of life compared to the next 60-80?

So these people (the IDS's) are both, teacher and clinician. They are neuroplaticians. It would take a biological understanding as well as an ability to teach. I'd venture to say that many special eduction teachers of older children are the same. It's just by nature that this age group is the most plastic, therefore putting that demand on the involved person, the IDS.

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